I was a Bulls fan. It was tough not to be when you were my age in the 1990’s. Like the Steelers in the 70’s, Celtics and Lakers in the 80’s, Cowboys in the 90’s, Lakers in the 2000’s, and the Yankee’s ever decade; the Bulls were the bandwagon basketball team of the 90’s.
The greatest player of all-time was hitting his prime and his name was on every headline, his highlights led the broadcast, his brand was blossoming. Every kid wanted to be Jordan, hitting the shot at the buzzer, jumping in the air and pumping our fists pretending that Craig Ehlo was falling to the ground behind us. Jordan was the man. Jordan was the brand. Jordan was basketball. Very few wanted to be Pippen.
But we can not forget Scottie Pippen. Pippen, the player named to the 50 Greatest. Pippen, gold medalist in 1992 and 1996. Pippen, who was a seven-time All-Star (6-time stater and 1-time MVP in ’93-’94). Pippen, who averaged 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.2 apg and 2.0 steals a game in the regular season and then averaged 17.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.0 apg and 1.9 steals a game.
As lethal as they were offensively, Jordan and Pippen were better defensively. People forget Pippen and Jordan were two of the best defenders and the two best perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Pippen was a member of the All-Defensive First Team from 1991-’92 to 1998-’99 – he was also Second Team 1990-’91 and 1999-’00. Pippen was a three-time First Team All-NBAer, and had four other seasons on both the Second(2) and Third(2) Team.
But even Pippen, who was by far the second best player on the Bulls, never got the respect Jordan expected. At times, Pippen was the fifth highest paid player on the roster and one season even made less than Luc Longley. While Jordan received his “Thanks for the Titles” contacts in ’96-’97 for $30M and then $33M in ’97-’98, Pippen never made more than $3.4M a season. Pippen finally made more while in Houston ($11M) and than Portland (over $66M).
Salary Side-Note: Pippen actually made a total of $109M while Jordan ‘only’ made $90M. Antoine Walker made $108M.
Pippen never had the commercial success which made Jordan an institution, he never had $30M contracts, Pippen just played that game.
ESPN’s Ric Bucher summarized Pippen’s HOF speech and career perfectly with this Tweet;
Scottie Pippen’s HOF speech: solid + all-encompassing. quiet passion but no frills – exactly the way he played.
I wrote this about Pippen last year after Jordon’s induction;
Pippen and Jordan were the only two players on the Bulls for all six titles. And Pippen was the perfect balance to Jordan. While Jordan dominated the ball, Pippen was good open shooter, could finish in traffic and at the rim. But Pippen was even more dominate as a defender. He was able to guard point guards to power forwards. With a combination of speed, anticipation and long arms; Pippen was a defensive threat anywhere on the court.
Pippen, like Jordan, headlines his class entering the Hall of Fame. And for a short period of time, Pippen will stand alone and people will solely on Pippen, his accomplishments of his career and how he was there for each of the six Bulls titles. And they will know that if it weren’t for Pippen, Jordan would not have won a title in Chicago. As much as Pippen would not have been Pippen without Jordan, the must be said about Jordan.
Congratulations Scottie Pippen. Enjoy the moment.